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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Could Israel Really Destroy Iran’s Nuclear Facilities in a Strike?

F-35I Adir
Israeli Air Force F-35I Adir stealth multi-role fighter.

Over the years, Israeli military officials have hinted at the country’s ability to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities if necessary. The Jewish state has led successful operations in the past, striking nuclear facilities in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007. While Iraq and Syria are closely positioned to Israel, Iran is nearly 1,000 miles away. The distance between Israel and Iran remains the most challenging obstacle for this type of operation. However, Israel’s arsenal of long-range fighters and its potentially nuclear-capable intermediate-range ballistic missile would lead to an effective operation

Assessing the Situation

In February, the Israeli government estimated that the Islamic Republic of Iran was merely 4 to 6 months away from achieving nuclear breakout status. The Jewish state sent a delegation to the ongoing joint U.S.-Iranian Vienna negotiations to express concern that a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would fail to distance the regime from its nuclear breakout time while simultaneously allowing the transfer of arms and weapons to its proxies undeterred. While the negotiations’ progress has stalled, U.S. officials sped up the regime’s potential breakout time to “a few weeks away.” Iran’s rapid expansion of uranium, a litany of compliance failures, and increasingly threatening rhetoric have both the U.S. and Israel worried.

Earlier this month, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched the largest military drills in the country’s history, dubbed “Chariots of Fire.” As part of this planned simulation, Israel’s Air Force practiced taking out Iran’s nuclear sites. If Israel would strike Iran in the future, the Natanz uranium site would be the premier target. This complex is around 600,000 square feet and is dug nearly 23 feet below the ground, covered by several layers of metal and concrete. Surrounded by surface-to-air missiles, the complex would be challenging to target.

Fighter Jets at the Ready

The Israeli Air Force’s arsenal of F-15I Ra’am, F-16I Sufa, and F-35I Adir fighter jets would be capable of targeting Iran’s Natanz facility. With a combat radius of over 1,000 miles, the F-16 Sufas would be able to operate a long-range mission. Israel’s fleet of 25 F-15 Ra’ams has a combat range of over 2,000 miles. In 1981, the IAF launched the “Operation Opera” attack that destroyed a nuclear reactor located south of Baghdad. A squadron of eight F-16As equipped with two unguided Mark-84 2,000 pound delay-action bombs carried out the successful strike. While Syria is a closer destination to Israel than Iran, the IDF’s fleet of fighters is likely up to the challenge. 

In addition to its fleet of jets, Israel’s Jericho 3 missile reportedly can carry nuclear warheads and has an estimated range of 4,000-6,000 kilometers. This weapon would easily reach Iranian territory and would certainly be included in any plans the IDF puts forward to strike out the Natanz facility. The missile has a reported payload of 1,000-1,300 kilograms and is possibly equipped with a 750kg nuclear warhead. Although the Jericho’s true capabilities are kept under wraps due to Israel’s policy of nuclear opacity, the potentiality of its existence poses a significant threat to Iran and tool for the IDF. 

Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.



  1. Hamid

    May 31, 2022 at 11:28 pm

    Well, it is prudent for Israel to stay calm and not undertake any such adventure. A good question would be, “What Israel would achieve and at what cost?” No doubt Iranian regime has been against Israel but so are many other countries. And if Israel plans to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability just due to Hizbollah’s presence in its surroundings, it would be killing a fly with hammer. So far it has successfully destroyed Iraq and Syria’s nuclear facilities. Both these nations have been destroyed on false pretexts of WMDs. But remember Israel has already enraged Arabs though it has been successful in lodging itself in backyards of Arabs (in UAE) but inviting another conflict would not create serenity for only Jew state.

    • jeepwonder

      June 2, 2022 at 10:53 am

      It is not prudent to allow enemies that want Israel dead to develop the means to make it happen. Do you want another Shoah for any reason in particular or just because you are self loathing?

  2. Raymond Cabero

    June 1, 2022 at 1:39 am

    You should change your drink Maya. Iran is not Syria where Israel enters and exits as his own backyard.

  3. Arash P

    June 1, 2022 at 3:56 am

    Many observers, including Israelis (e.g. see Danny Citrinowicz, former intelligence chief) will tell you that There is no realistic heavy handed solution for this. All Israeli acts of terror/sabotage have only ramped up Iran’s program so far. A military strike by Israel not only in all likelihood will fail to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, it will ensure Iran withdrawal from NPT, ejection of all international inspectors and a determined, focused rebuilding of the program with the sole intention of making bombs as quickly as possible. A rebuilding capacity completely lacked by either Iraq or Syria. Moreover, such an attack will only strengthen the resolve of other countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to acquire nukes.

    In fact, Israel is already pushing it’s luck. Unlike Israel, Iran is a signatory to NPT. Article 10 of NPT reserves the right of it’s members to withdraw from the treaty should their “supreme national interests” be in jeopardy. Iran should simply cite this recent “chariot of fire” drill by Israel and US, a joint exercise to attack Iran, conducted by the Largest military force in the world, armed with thousands of nukes and a major regional power, armed with an undeclared nuclear arsenal, as a situation that jeopardizes it’s national interests and declare withdrawal from NPT! Two nuclear armed states threatening a non-nuclear state with military invasion, there has hardly ever been a better case for withdrawal from NPT!

    Multi nuclear states middle east is inevitable. Israelis need to make peace with that fact and accept that their delusion of “nuclear supremacy” was just that!

    • TrustbutVerify

      June 2, 2022 at 12:46 pm

      You’ve got things a little backward. Iran’s development of nuclear weapons is what will spur the Saudis to develop their own..or other Mideast states, for that matter.

      Your delusion about the threat to Iran is based on faulty premises. The only reason there is a threat to Iran is because of their aggressive support of terrorist groups and fomenting/supporting attacks. So they want nuclear weapons to try to insulate themselves from the consequences of those actions – they think.

      Their avowed purpose, however, is to eliminate Israel and it doesn’t take many nukes, even inaccurate ones, to devastate a country the size of Israel. So Iran having a launch capability with an avowed policy of destroying Israel and a demonstrated propensity toward murder is unacceptable.

      What happens to Iran will persuade other states it isn’t worth it…better to just be friends and play politics with oil that you sell to the world.

      • Arash p

        June 17, 2022 at 6:58 pm

        Khamenei is a scholar. He reads more books in a month than trump has read in his entire life!

        This lie that all Iran needs to do is disarm itself by giving up nuke program and cutting ties to its Allies and then US and Israel will love it will not fool anyone! That is what Saddam and Ghaddafi did, where are they now?!

        You can call anyone you want a terrorist, I don’t care. You are rooting for those who kill scientists, you have no credibility in my eyes. Don’t scientists in US or Israel participate in secret military projects? You don’t know Iran. You don’t know how high Iranians regard their scientists. Those who kill scientists are the real terrorists and they will never be forgotten by Iranian people. There will be a reckoning for them.

        Also, I don’t care about what will prompt Saudi and Turkey to pursue nukes. What matters is that if a bunch of thieves and murderer Israelis have nukes, so should everyone else!

  4. Arash P

    June 1, 2022 at 4:18 am

    It is often said that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. The idea that Iran is just going to sit back and take it from Israel is ridiculous. I have lived in Iran. I know there are millions there that will not shy away from a fight with Israel and believe me when I say that they are not afraid of dying. Iran wages asymmetrical war. Not only Iran has proxies, drones and ballistic missiles that will rain hell on Israel in case of such an unprovoked attack, they will not hesitate to resort to less conventional ways to fend of an invader.
    For example, Iran has sophisticated air defense system. I have no doubt that they will not only parade the first Israeli pilot they capture in front of the cameras, they most likely will chain him to the nuclear facilities along with any other Israelis they capture abroad to deter continuation of attacks. A war crime? For sure. But then so is an unprovoked “war of aggression” a war crime. In fact “war of aggression” is the gravest of all war crimes because IT leads to all other war crimes that follow.

  5. Him

    June 1, 2022 at 11:10 am

    Just a reminder that the Bible’s last “Book of Revelation” predicts that the armies of the nations come to attack Israel, and it all ends in the ultimate Battle of Armageddon, on the plains of modern Megiddo.

  6. dnordic

    June 2, 2022 at 8:22 am

    Why are articles written about 1st strike which will involve nuclear weapons. We have Russia ready to send 4 Satan II rockets at us inretalation for supplying Ukraine. What this is all about is weak leadership from Biden. Biden was never a President. Obama is pulling the strings.

  7. Barefootcavalry

    June 2, 2022 at 11:10 pm

    the F-35 was actually designed for Israel with this mission in mind.

  8. Pieter Ott

    June 3, 2022 at 2:01 am

    We should seriously concentrate on removing the people threatening war. Ordinary civilized people of the world just want to be left in peace to make a living, raise their children and pursue happiness. Nobody should have the power to destroy and kill. They need to be removed now. Just like we can’t tolerate mental cases shooting up schools and Supermarkets. We should remove them from civilized society.

  9. Ben

    June 3, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    I don’t know if Israel could make that strike successfully or not, but if the can do it successfully, THEY SHOULD DO IT TODAY!

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